Posted 9 years ago
Dr. John Parsons was a multi-talented medical doctor from Quincy, Illinois, who ventured west to Colorado Territory in 1859. Parsons, who also was a botanist and a hard-rock miner, had a strong background in metallurgy. In the summer of 1860, he moved to the Tarryall Mining district in South Park, where he assayed gold ore for placer miners.
In 1861, after securing dies and equipment, Parsons returned to Tarryall, this time with a coin press mounted in the back of a wagon. In that summer, the towns of Hamilton and Tarryall were home to more than 6,000 miners. Parsons located his minting wagon at the mouth of Tarryall Creek, just west of the two towns.
It is reported that Parsons charge a fee as high as 20% to the miners wishing to convert their gold dust to coin. Thus a miner would receive a $5.00 coin in exchange for $6.25 of gold dust. Parsons left Tarryall before October 1861 and moved to Denver where he became active in several projects, notably a water-ditch company.
The obverse of the Parsons $2.50 and $5 gold piece shows a six-stamp, quartz reduction mill. Basically, this machine pulverized ore to aid in the extraction of the gold. The device portrayed is very similar to an actual example that was built in Buckskin Joe, a nearby town where Dr. Parsons owned a mining claim. That mill has been preserved and is shown.
However, the die engraver make a mistake in the spelling of Dr. Parsons name by leaving off the terminal "s" on the coins. Below the mill is the Spanish word "oro," meaning "gold." The coin's reverse shows an American eagle and shield, similar to federal coinage of the time. The words "Pikes Peak Gold" surround the eagle with the denomination below. Fewer than ten examples survive of the Parsons $2.50 coin.
According to contemporary reports, Parsons struck a "significant" number of $2.50 and $5.00 coins which circulated as far away as Denver. However, only four to six examples survive of the $5.00 denomination.
The obverse is on the $5.00 coin is similar to the $2.50 except that the first initial of Parsons name has been lengthened to "Jno." The reverse design is also similar but with the denomination changed to "Five D."
From the Mayer collection. Posted by Richard Frajola (from an article on my website)